Evaluating the impact of expanded practice dental hygienists in Oregon: an outcomes assessment

J Dent Hyg. 2015 Feb;89(1):17-25.


Purpose: Currently the dental hygiene practice model in Oregon includes the Expanded Practice Dental Hygienist (EPDH), which allows dental hygienists with an Expanded Practice Permit (EPP) to provide care to limited access populations without the supervision of a dentist. The number and types of services provided by EPDH practitioners is thus far undocumented. The purpose of this study is to conduct an outcomes assessment of EPDH practitioners in order to quantify the impact, defined by count of services, on the access to care crisis in Oregon.

Methods: A 16 question confidential survey was developed and approved by the Pacific University institutional review board. The mail-based survey was sent to 181 EPDHs in Oregon in November 2011 (all EPDHs except pilot testers and one author). A second mailing was sent to non-respondents. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and chi-square analysis in SPSS.

Results: The response rate was 39% (n = 71). Approximately 41% (n = 29) of the respondents were currently using their EPP to provide care to limited access patients with an additional 21% (n = 15) planning to start their own expanded practice. The majority of practicing EPDHs provide care in residential care facilities (n = 21) and in school settings (n=13). Of the current practicing EPP holders, 76% practice ≤ 10 hours per week, and 66% make < $10,000 per year. Total services reported in an average month from all responding EPDH practitioners were: 254 adult prophylaxes, 1,003 child prophylaxes, 106 adult fluorides, 901 child fluorides and 1,994 fluoride varnishes, among many other preventive procedures.

Conclusion: To a limited extent, the amount and type of services provided by EPDHs has now been quantified, and EPDHs are making an impact on the access to care crisis in Oregon. Continued outcomes assessment is needed to further quantify the impact of EPDHs.

Keywords: dental hygienists; health services accessibility; outcome assessment; professional practice.

MeSH terms

  • Dental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Dental Hygienists / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Oregon
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Surveys and Questionnaires